Somewhere along the line, with a big boost from Hollywood, people got it into their heads that sea captains, nattily dressed in their crisp uniforms, could legally join couples on the open seas.
"Everyone has anecdotal knowledge of this - can't a captain marry them?" said John K. Fulweiler, a specialist in admiralty and maritime law in Newport, R.I. "I don't know where in society it percolates from. It's one of the most commonly misunderstood facts."
But in New York, Captain Arnold Wonsever, who has become an ordained minister through a church in Maryland and who notes that he has performed nearly 2,000 marriages since 2003, is making this myth a reality.